This study examines presidential general election television advertising (1952-2004), primary advertising (1952-2008), and non-presidential advertising from 2002 (gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, U.S. House) to understand the use of evidence (statements for which sources are provided) in such campaign messages. 8% of the themes in these spots were supported by evidence (that is, identified a source for a claim). However, the longitudinal presidential data suggests that evidence in advertising was rare until the 1990s, when Bill Clinton in particular employed a great deal of evidence in his spots. Although the appeals across all ads were mainly positive (70% of the themes in these ads were acclaims), evidence disproportionately supported attacks (65% of the utterances with evidence were attacks). No consistent topic evidence emerged for use of evidence in these ads (a tendency to use evidence to support policy in general presidential ads, and to support character in senate ads). Candidates in this sample used newspapers most frequently as sources of evidence, followed by governmental reports and statements from one‘s opponent, voting record, and other sources.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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